The BBC has commissioned a major new history series to tell the story of art from the dawn of human history until the present day.
Art historian Simon Schama will lead Civilisations, presenting six episodes of the ten part BBC Two series, while classicist Mary Beard will present two programmes putting the art and culture of ancient Greece and Rome into a global context, looking at early material from Iran, China and Mexico. RTS Programme Award nominee David Olusoga will present two episodes examining the relationships between Empire, military history and global cultures.
The new commission marks almost 50 years since Kenneth Clark’s groundbreaking series Civilisation, which brought the glory of Western art to wide audiences.
The new series is designed to enlighten a new generation, and will look at art on a global scale, from Mughal miniatures to African bronzes.
Tony Hall, Director General of the BBC said, “I remember the impact Civilisation had on me when I was in school: it was the start of a lifelong passion for the arts. Inspired by that great programme of the past, we want to excite a new generation. We want to show them the power of art and creativity across the world – from the dawn of civilisation to today. I’m thrilled that Simon, Mary and David, three outstanding broadcasters, have accepted the challenge.”
Civilisations, which is produced by the BBC and Nutopia in association with PBS and the Open University, will be shot around the world in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas.
David Olusoga said he was “thrilled” to be presenting the ambitious new series, adding: “When I was growing up on a council estate my family didn’t have the money to visit galleries or museums, but my mother was able to open up the worlds of art and culture to me through documentaries on the BBC, programmes that broadened my horizons and transformed my view of the world. Civilisations is the next chapter in that tradition of TV with the power to change lives.”
The series will use state-of-the-art technology including drones and macro photography to bring the viewer closer to the art. The ten episodes will be complemented by additional programming on other BBC platforms, including innovative online content.
Filming commences next year, and the series is expected to air in late 2017.